Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says giving statehood to Puerto Rico would strengthen the United States.

Carson attended a political rally of statehood supporters Sunday where he pledged to advocate for admission of the U.S. territory as the 51st state.

He said the current debt problems of Puerto Rico's government are the result of the island being treated unfairly as a territory and the situation would improve if it won statehood.

Carson said Puerto Rico has paid its dues for becoming a state, pointing to its century-long association with the United States and the participation of its residents in fighting U.S. wars.